Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Review: Midnight in Paris

Of all the Oscar nominees for Best Picture, Midnight in Paris may be my favorite.  I should preface this by saying I am something of a Woody Allen fan, having really enjoyed a number of his directorial efforts including Whatever Works, Match Point, Hollywood Ending, Everyone Says I Love You, and of course Annie Hall.  So I do have a predisposition towards his brand of filmmaking.   In regards to his most profitable work ($148M theatrical gross worldwide), I would say there is an awful lot to like about this film.

The story of an artist (Owen Wilson’s Gil) perpetually enamored with an era long since passed is not particularly original, but adding the element of time travel to the proceedings allows Allen and his cast to have fun with the premise, and in doing so take viewers on a fantastical journey.  This is of particular interest to me, because the plot involves some of my favorite literary giants (Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Eliot).  And while weaving time travel into the fabric of a film can often be extremely difficult to reconcile with the rules of logic, Allen handles it with such a light-hearted touch so as to encourage the viewer to fully suspend their disbelief.

Perhaps the strongest aspect of the film is the casting.  Owen Wilson is his usual onscreen self, but it serves him well as a hack Hollywood screenwriter aspiring for something more – a near direct parallel to his acting career.  Marion Cotillard is charming as the female lead, acting as a mirror to Wilson’s personal crisis.  Rachel McAdams channels her inner “Mean Girls” as Gil’s wife Inez.  She and Michael Sheen’s Paul are utterly grating to the senses and set up a fantastic contrast between present and past.  As for the rest of the cast, Tom Hiddleston, Corey Stoll, Kathy Bates et al do a fantastic job of breathing life into a lineup of literary and artistic giants in a way that is both comedic and authentic.

This movie is a must see.  It is charming, heartbreaking, and funny.  Paris serves as the ideal backdrop for a movie that straddles the line between reality and fantasy.  Woody Allen films do not always play well to mainstream audiences but good storytelling does.  Midnight in Paris definitely falls into the latter category.

Standout Performance:  Tom Hiddleston of Thor fame does an amazing job of disappearing into the role of F. Scott Fitzgerald.


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